Leaching of acid generating materials and elements from coarse- and fine-grained acid sulfate soil materials

Stefan Mattbäck*, Anton Boman, Andreas Sandfält, Peter Österholm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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In Finland, acid sulfate (AS) soils are regarded as a serious environmental threat towards the Baltic Sea and watersheds situated in land areas that have emerged from the sea since the last glaciation due to glacial isostasy. The aim of this study is to compare the behavior of coarse-grained AS soil materials to the behavior of fine-grained AS soils and coarse-grained non-AS soils in order to (1) assess the potential environmental threat of coarse-grained AS soils and (2) to assess the need to distinguish coarse-grained AS soils from fine-grained AS soils in future risk assessment of AS soils. The hypotheses are that (1) a coarser grain size enhances the rate of oxidation and pH decrease due to larger inherited pore size, enabling better initial aeration and less efficient buffering processes due to lower particle surface areas and different mineralogy (more weathering resistant quartz and feldspars), and that (2) the leaching of acid generating materials and elements from coarse grained AS soils is significantly lower as compared to fine-grained AS soils but significantly higher as compared to coarse grained non-AS soils. The study used an incubation based “let the soil speak for itself”-approach, which means that parameters such as pH, acidity, amount of elements leached, and the electric conductivity of the leachates were measured on arrays of sample aliquots before, during, and after a 16 week incubation (oxidation) period. Even though the coarse-grained AS soil materials contained one order of magnitude less sulfide than the fine-grained AS soil materials, a S mass fraction as low as 0.01%, the pH dropped well below 4.0 upon oxidation, thus being classified as AS soils. The amount of acid generating materials and elements leached from coarse-grained AS soil materials were at least one order of magnitude less, as compared to the fine-grained AS soil materials, except for Fe, which leached in similar or greater quantities from coarse-grained AS soil materials. The differences in the leaching of acid generating materials and elements suggest it would be beneficial to divide coarse-grained and fine-grained AS soils into separate subgroups for risk management purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106880
JournalJournal of Geochemical Exploration
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Acid sulfate soils
  • Acidity
  • Leaching
  • Sand
  • Sulfides


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